Monday, May 30, 2011

Daily Oak - Guest Tree report for February, March and April

In February I decided that I would try to find guest trees on days that I was not at home and could therefore not go and take my daily picture of 'my' oak tree in my daily art project.

Since then I have mentioned the number of pictures of guest trees taken in the Daily Oak statistics, and by now I think it is time that you got to see some of them.

With guest trees I do not take care to find out which kind they are. The pictures are taken because the shape or location of the tree make an impression on me, or because the lighting in the leaves, or my position under them, or because of their beautiful flowers.

February 22 -
Out of four trees in the Fulda Franciscan
monastery, three carried last year's nests...
what a song that must have been!

March 6, art tree by Örni Poschmann

March 7 - guest skyline

March 8 - guest shadows
April 19 - a tree as a power line?
April 23 - lonely in a swamp

April 26 - diverging

April  25 - guest tree statue

I also found the real sign for this project, which in a way is about a live oak...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Inspirational pictures

From my trip to the US I came back with a few more inspirational pictures.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Beach impressions

Growth on the beach

Brick composition

Butterfly house, Museum of Life and Sciences, Durham

Encounter at the Zoo


Material mix

Storm rolling in...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

On ruining a quilt top...

A couple of weeks ago I was stitching my entry for Ste. Marie aux Mines. Hand stitching is rather contemplative, and since this top has been very thoroughly thought through and does not need much brain-attention on its way to being finished, I can let my mind wander. I got onto the train of thinking about the title of the challenge, namely „Enchevêtrement“ (in French), translated as „Tangle“ into English and as „Geflecht“ into German. (I see quite a problem in the translations because a tangle (which constitutes a mess and is certainly something you do not want to have) and a Geflecht (which is sort of orderly and a situation that may be hard to retreat from, e.g. in a family situation, but it does not include the semantics of ‚messy’ to such a degree as tangle does – but that’s a different story and I don’t really want to go into linguistic specifics here...)

So, while thinking about the title I vividly felt that I needed something to sew on the machine to give my finger tip a break from pushing the needle (I’m working without a thimble because it kept breaking the thread.) I also realized that I might actually have a second quilt that I could enter in that challenge, if I could finish both of them on time.

Just after Christmas I had started a new piece which I had also meant to become a part of my series „Play of Lines“, again using a drawing by my son as inspiration.

"Mom, you can use this to make a quilt!"
Using the drawing was slightly different this time, however, as it was the first time that my son had actually given me the drawing with the words, „here mom, you can turn this into a quilt now“. So whereas all his other drawings that I had kept were just his drawings I preserved and could either use or not use as inspiration. As much as I liked the drawing, this one came with a bit of obligation.

As it turns out, it went fine in the beginning, and within a few days I had progressed far enough that I considered the whole piece almost finished. I liked it, but it needed something else which I could not come up with at that point. So I put it away a little bit to let it ‚sink in’ and then perhaps add one or two little things before it would be all done.

That was the top that came to mind while I was hand-stitching. 
The next morning I set to work – and for one reason or another ruined the whole thing. You may understand that I was pretty upset about that. I had auditioned the lines which I inserted before I cut the top by pinning them on top. But when I saw them sewn in, they did not feel right, and at once I started thinking ‚and how are you going to quilt that anyway?’
It had very nice sections, such as this one

And this one.

The individual sections I really liked, but it didn’t work as a whole.

Frustrated, I folded it up and was going to add it to the UFO-pile. I called my friend, told her about it, got myself some empathy and consolation. A couple of days later she had invited us for lunch and just for completeness’ sake I took the failure along to show her.
She looked at it - and really liked it a lot. I was amazed. She agreed that she did not know how to go about the quilting, either – but she’s not a quilter. She just liked the design,the boldness of color choice, and the interaction of the lines, all of which are thngs that I want to work with in that series. We agreed that it would take very well to be turned by 90 degrees – a step in design which I take quite frequently, in fact, but which just hadn’t occurred to me in this particular case, probably because I had already turned it once at an earlier stage.

So after lunch I took it back home, put it back up on the wall and kept looking at it off and on for the rest of the afternoon. She was right – it’s a pretty cool design. And after I had taken my son to bed I even came up with an idea for a quilting pattern. It will need a bit of special attention, but it’s not ruined after all. If I get them finished, I will enter two quilts at Ste. Marie-aux-Mines.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Daily Art Project as Dialogue: Daily Mail, part IV - art or not art?

Kathy Loomis and I spent almost seven months from September to April in a joint daily art project which we have reported about here and here.

In December, at approximately half-term, the whole project went through a crisis because due to some problems of their provider, Kathy was unable to send e-mails for several days, although new postings were still appearing on her blog. Before (and after) that crisis we had always made sure to announce to each other when we would be out of town, and we had either posted ahead, to be opened on the date indicated, or we would make up afterwards.
So as it is with crises, they usually offer you a chance to change or reconsider something in your life.  

This sudden and unannounced silence on Kathy’s part while new posts appeared on her blog left me slightly at a loss. I felt abandoned – and understood how important the whole project had become for me. And for my artistic development. Not only was I having fun preparing our daily mails. I was taking pictures at a higher frequency rate than ever before, and I was also taking different kinds of pictures. Some of these have meanwhile been published in our local newspaper after I sent them in on chance. (And I am even getting paid a token for each picture published, I just found out!)

During those days of not receiving anything from Kathy I spent a considerable amount of hours contemplating on the art value of our project. I realized that it was much more than sheer fun for the two of us. The concept behind the whole thing was the setup as a dialogue between two different people from two different cultures, though with at least a certain amount of shared interest. Kathy has already mentioned the cultural exchange aspect in her last post on the project  as we exchanged pictures of national or local peculiarities. But the dialogue also went beyond the immediated reaction to each other’s themes as they were developing, in that each of us started seeing new constellations or aspects which we hadn’t noticed before.
At one point, Kathy had started sending pictures of ‚men at work’:

Kathy's picture of 'men at work' on Tenerife
Now that was definitely a theme I had not been paying any attention to in my picture taking. (And I admit I haven’t taken her up on that theme, although I do ‚see’ them now - but I feel slightly shy about taking pictures of – to me – strangers when they might notice. These must therefore be considered my „untaken pictures“.)
In turn, I have been taking pictures of trees and markings in their bark which I call ‚tree faces’.
These Kathy hadn’t noticed before – but she said she would be looking out for them now, and she has since posted one on her blog.
The ‚found art’ parts in the exchange showed me a lot of parallels between art and linguistics, which had been an important part in my former life. The success of (verbal) communication is always very much dependant on the hearer of a message, which could also be formulated as „meaning lies in the eyes (or ears) of the beholder“. That’s true for art, too. Art is in the eye of the beholder - and with fount art it is most likely going to be the artist, first.

Fount light-art by Uta

Found art in Antarctica by Kathy

Part of the value of the entire project must have been the fact that we didn’t know in which direction the exchange would develop, neither in the beginning nor throughout the project. Sometimes, a theme would not be taken up – or only at a much later date. Part of the value was the fact that we did include rather brief notes of explanation with our mails, but both of us made sure that these were not too personal. It was a visual conversation with very few extra words put in. Part of the value, too, was the fact that we were doing it every single day. Which kept the project (almost) constantly at the forefront of our minds as we were always looking at things with that thought in mind: would this be worth sending as the next Daily Mail? Permanent repetition with the slightest possible variations gives one a more thorough feeling for what one is doing. Thinking about it, and then doing it again, either with or without alteration, does make quite a difference.

In conceptual art, the idea „behind it“ was sometimes considered as or even more important than the actual execution. In this case, however, I think that the execution was just as important as the initial idea, because none of us knew ahead of time how it would develop, and the final result and feeling of satisfaction at having fulfilled the commitment contribute to my personal positive evaluation of the project.

When we talked it over in April, and we kept returning to the point of „what about it is art?“ Kathy gave me her personal definition of art as „art is anything that makes you think differently about the world“. ‚You’ in this case was meant to refer to the recipient. It’s true for the artist, though, too.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Inspirational pictures

In April I spent almost three weeks in North Carolina, visiting friends. Here are a few impressions from the trip.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Daily Art Project as Dialogue: Daily Mail, part III

So far I have given two reports (to view them, click here and here) on the daily art project ‚Daily Mail’ which Kathy Loomis and I performed for slightly more than six months, starting September 15, 2010. (You can view Kathy’s reports on her side of the project here and here and here.)
After Christmas the project was more than half over, as the final date had originally been set for March 15. Throughout the remaining 2 ½ months I sent pictures to Kathy on the following themes: winter, sink art, my own daily art project Daily Oak, shadows, lots of „found art“, dyeing results, from a bike trip through Sweden of 28 years ago, a small series on the Bavarian custom of putting up a „Wegkreuz“ (German link here) at crossroads of which I could find more than a dozen during a short bike trip in the immediate environment of the town where I live, my observations on the art of deconstruction , the spring flooding in our town, pictures from a trip to the Canarian Island of Fuerteventura I took with my son four years ago, an article on the improved recognition of Native American Art in American museums which I had found in the NY-Times excerpt regularly included in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, buttons, my newest quilts, the spring floods in my town, roof-decorations on older houses in my town, impressions from my family’s week-long trip to the Bavarian Forest (included lots of granite and cobblestones!), first hints of spring, tree faces and marking, bricks bricks bricks, and a series „inside/outside“ where I had taken pictures of church windows by artist Marlene Reidel  in a nearby church both from the inside and the outside.

The Museum of Granite in the Bavarian Forest

Winter Art

Regular status of creek in winter...

... turns this status in flooding.

Kathy shared many wonderful pictures from her January trip to Antarctica, some from a former trip to Greece, sunsets, shadows, found art, compositions of decay, chairs, first hints of spring, started a new series „men at work“ (which I really loved but could not match at all because I had never taken any pictures that would fit that theme and felt too shy taking pictures of men at work if they could see me doing it), something she calls ‚crop circles’ (which I now find here, too, though not so frequently), more pictures from Japan (after the earthquake and tsunami), the spring floods in her town, bricks bricks bricks, and lawn animals!

penguins marching up the hill

men at work...

found art

lawn animal

crop circle
And so - is this art? What do you think, before I report on how Kathy and I discussed this topic when we met in April...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Daily Oak, April report

April Statistics
Number of days missed: 18
Number of days with more than one visit: 5 (to make up for all those days missed...)
Number of visits with more than the two standard perspectives taken: 10
Guest trees (all on another continent): 13
Total number of pictures taken: 62

When I started the project of Daily Oak in January I did not yet know that I would be gone for the longest part of this month, as plans for my trip to the US only developed after I had begun taking the pictures. Of course, the almost three weeks that I was gone were crucial in the tree’s cycle of the year as this is the time when the leaves start coming out, which had not started to show at all when I left. (So I have already thought that I might have to continue the project until beginning of May next year to catch that particular part of the season... we’ll see.) However, oaks seem to take their time with putting out their leaves, because, as it turns out, they were not quite as far developed as I had thought they would be upon my return. So here are a few pictures from the month with the fewest visits/days so far.

This was the status of foliage on the day I left, when we stopped by at the tree on our way to the airport:

Perspective a: April 8, 8:23 a.m.
And this is how it looked on the evening of the day we returned:

Perspective a: April 28, 5:27 p.m.

Throughout the month I took several trips to the tree at some time between 1 and 2 p.m. and would like to show how the environment/sky differs on each visit:

Dramatic clouds, perspective a, April 1, 1:36 p.m.
Rather dark in the middle of the day:
perspective a, April 4, 1:53 p.m.
Bright sunshine, perspective a, April 7, 1:19 p.m.
Hazy, slightly greener, and with a plane's trail:
perspective a, April 29, 1:25 p.m.
 And just to prove that I did continue taking shots from perspective b: 

Sunset, perspective b, April 4, 7:32 p.m.

Guest trees will be featured together with March guests in a later post, but I want to show my two favorite ones here.
I managed to hit the peak of dogwood season in North Carolina, my absolute favorite time of the year there, and took pictures of dogwood trees all around.

Guesttree: Flowering Dogwood in
Greensboro, North Carolina, April 10
And when we went to the beach I found the remnants of a Christmas tree in the dunes which had been decorated with shells and obviously left there for others to enjoy. I’m glad I took this picture on the day we arrived, because the tree was taken apart by other people only a few days later.

Christmas remnant,
Outer Banks, North Carolina, April  16

 PS: the backside for March - taken on April 2:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Daily Art Project as Dialogue: Daily Mail, part II

Kathy Loomis and I participated in a joint daily art project from September 15, 2010 to April 8, 2011; you can read her first report about the project here, and I have first posted about it here.
Kathy started off her Daily Mails with several days of pictures from her recent trip to Japan, to which she then would repeatedly return throughout the project. My favorite picture of those first ones was this one: 
Kathy's picture of boats on the moat 
Later in the month I sent her a few pictures of reflections on water, which she took up eagerly, and which continued until the very end of our exchange, soon expanding to other media in which reflections are possible:
Reflected/upside-down city hall

Kathy's reflection from Nürnberg

Reflecting glass

Reflecting glass by Kathy

Me, reflected in mirror of artwork at Stuttgart Staatsgalerie
In quick succession we than came up with new themes that would be returned to every now and then, and sometimes would 'meet' each other:

  • sunsets (always good for a colorful picture, though in the end we didn't have too many of those)
Sunset by Kathy

Sunset by Uta

  • bricks
  • shadows

Combination of shadows and bricks by Uta

  • artwork by other artists
  • some of our own artwork in progress or finished
and, a recurring topic for which we needed some time and discussion as to how it should be referred to: 
I wanted to call it ‚art or not art?’ because I liked the game of guessing that would be included under that title, Kathy preferred the title ‚found art’ as she claimed that most of the pictures would be taken somewhere else than in a gallery anyway. We had lots of those, and I willingly confess that that has meanwhile become my favorite object when taking pictures: finding beauty/art in unexpected places, and documenting them by photo.

Found art by Kathy: dumpster markings

art-or-not-art by Uta (solution: art in the making!)

Found art  by Uta
And then, for more than two weeks, Kathy treated me to an extensive stretch of Halloween-documentation, that most American custom which, although it has been exported to other parts of the world by now, still is most virile in the US.

Halloween decoration by Kathy

The taste of Halloween by Kathy
In reply, I gave her a deep insight into my family’s Christmas customs all through Advent and December, which you can read about on Kathy’s post today here.

Further report on the project coming up in a few days.